My DH is building some raised beds this spring so I can garden easier from the wheelchair. What type of soil would you recommend? We have a source for topsoil that is mixed with compost, would this be suitable?
Topsoil mixed with compost sounds good so long as they have not added lots of fertilizers which can burn roots. What does the stuff smell like? It should smell like sweet loamy soil and have no off odors or ammonia smell. You might want to have the pH tested to be sure it is near neutral and if it is off you can add your lime or sulfur before you put the soil in the beds and test again. For more info about the soil and what makes good soil ... see the soil forum.
Come my spade. There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers; they hold up Adam's profession. - Shakespeare, Hamlet V,i
Here is a link that might be useful: GW: Soil, Compost and Mulch
There is a superb book on raised bed gardening that will answer every single question you have. It's called, "How to grow more food in less space, with less work, etc., than you ever thought possible." The title is approximate but close. The author is John Jeavons, the father of the "Bio-dynamic/French Intensive" school of raised bed gardening. It's an extremely well written and information dense 8x11 paperback. Basically what he shows first off is what amendments to lay over the soil followed by how to double dig it with hand tools. Next he gives instruction on how to plant seeds and seedlings for complete coverage of the soil and even specifies the distances between the different types of plants. I use his methods and have for years, although I am by no means a purist in organic gardening. For example, I use a Honda Harmony mini-rototiller for very fast bed preparation. I use Miracle Grow and other spray over fertilizers for fast easy fertilization. But I manure the beds each time I plant and till in the garden waste and lots of organic materials as well.
For more information on this you can visit my website where I've assembled lots of links on this and other subjects.
Here is a link that might be useful: Husband Bob's Adventures
My husband built me 8 raised beds with brick walk all around. Its fenced in with a picket fence he made out of an old corn crib,I love it to me there is no better way of gardening. i have never had gardening so easy,enjoyable.Everything grows just gorgeous.We buy a load of mushroom soil every year. The soil in boxes sinks every year.
I think that somebody (a professional market gardener) told me that Jeavons has quietly dropped references to double digging from his latest publications. It is considered an obsolete methodology which destroys soil microorganisms. This is great news for those who believe in less work.
The current thinking is to put ammendements such as compost, etc, in a layer over the top of the soil and NEVER disturb it. I assume it might be necessary to a certaian point in the first season to get grass and weed cleared.
I use a lot of peat moss to supplement and support my top soil and compost. I add a bale every now and then as I work the beds for early spring first planting. I ask the first worm I come to in the compost if he is feeling OK. If he smiles I use the compost. My top soil to peat moss and compost percentage is approximately 50%. I have never met an unhappy worm in my beds except perhaps for the three that went fishing with me last evening.